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Kylr Yust Testified On The Final Day Of His Double Murder Trial, The Jury Has Started Deliberations

Kylr Yust.jpg
Jill Toyoshiba/jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com
/
The Kansas City Star
Kylr Yust took the stand in his double-murder trial in Cass County, denying involvement in the killings of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions.

After almost two weeks of testimony, Kylr Yust took the stand and accused his half-brother of killing the two women.

The jury in Kylr Yust's double murder trial in Cass County will continue deliberations Thursday morning after a long day in court that featured unexpected testimony from the suspect.

Yust, 32, is accused of killing 21-year-old Jessica Runions, who witnesses say was last seen leaving a party with Yust in 2016. He is also accused of killing Kara Kopetsky, a 17-year-old in 2007 when she was last seen leaving Belton High School.

The women's cases remained unsolved until a mushroom hunter found both of their remains in a wooded area in Cass County in 2017.

Yust's testimony

Shortly after the defense team called its witness, Judge William Collins asked Yust if he wanted to testify. Yust responded that he did, drawing surprised gasps from the courtroom and media watching the proceedings on the video feed provided for the press.

During his testimony, Yust denied any involvement in the deaths of Kopetsky and Runions. Instead, he blamed his half brother, Jessup Carter, who the defense has presented as an alternative suspect. Carter died by suicide in 2018 in the Jackson County jail.

Lead prosecutor Julie Tolle told Yust that he must be the most unlucky guy in the world” because of his two girlfriends went missing and were killed.

“Anyone who’s had a brother who's a serial killer is unlucky," Yust said in response.

He said he was with Kopetsky on May 4, 2007, the last day she was seen alive. He said he asked her if she wanted to go with him to see his great aunt at a Kansas City nursing home.

Yust testified that Kopetsky didn’t want to go, and Carter was going to drop her off at a local skate park.

Tolle stated that this was the first time Yust admitted to having direct contact with Kopetsky on the day she disappeared. It was also the first time he had accused his brother of the killings. Tolle also accused him of visiting his aunt to create an alibi.

Yust says he was dishonest with police because he didn’t want to get in trouble for violating the order of protection Kopetsky had filed against him just days before she disappeared.

He also testified that he told his attorney, Molly Hastings, about the day of Kopetsky’s disappearance years ago. He said Hastings is defending him for free because she believes him.

Runions went missing on Sept. 8, 2016, and Yust said he didn’t remember much because he drank too much before spending the night at his grandfather’s house. He testified that he saw Runions’ car the next morning and when he returned from work it was gone. Yust's grandfather died last year.

Yust testified that when he arrived at his grandfather’s house he noticed Carter had been drinking. According to Yust, he and Carter then went to their uncle’s house where he said Carter’s demeanor was confusing.

“Several times throughout the night ... I asked him, 'Where's Jessica?'” Yust said.

Yust testified that he believed Carter died by suicide because Carter pleaded not guilty in the women's deaths. Carter was expected to be one of key witnesses in the murder trial.

Closing arguments

The prosecution told jurors about six confessions that Yust made to those close to him over the last 14 years, including a call made to his mother from jail.

Yust said after his arrest in 2016, he felt like “giving up” because he knew he’d be blamed for the murders.

“This is happening all over again, but even worse,” Yust said. “Screw it, I’ve got nothing else to lose, I might as well be famous.”

The prosecution also brought up confessions made in conversations the FBI wiretapped with Yust's ex-girlfriend, Katelynn Farris, who testified at the trial last week.

Yust says he was acting when he made the comments, and playing into what he believed to be Farris’ sexual fantasy. He said he was at a low point in life and wanted attention.

Yust’s defense argued the police had failed to fully follow up on leads and process evidence during the investigation that weren’t related to Yust.

They also argued that no physical evidence connected him to the murders.

“Somehow, Kylr pulled off two murders without leaving a trace,” said lead defense attorney Sharon Turlington.

The defense called four other witnesses earlier in the day, including John Thomas, a forensic consultant specializing in crime scene and fire investigation. He raised concerns about the way officers had processed Jessica Runions' car after it was found burned just days after she went missing.

Turlington asked the jury to look at the science in the case. “Just looking at the timelines, nothing about this works,” she said.

The prosecution asked the jury to find Yust guilty of murder in the first degree, pointing towards allegations that he strangled the two girls.

“Strangulation is deliberation," Tolle said.

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